The fine art of Malaysian debate


By Marina Mahathir, The Star

IN light of recent events and with the lack of guidance from up top on how to conduct ourselves in an argument, I thought I would volunteer some tips on How to Win an Argument in Malaysia.

1. Decide what stance you want to take on something. It doesn’t have to be based on facts or logic, just what you felt when you woke up this morning, especially if you got up on the wrong side of the bed.

2. Don’t consult anyone on the facts of the matter. What matters is how you feel about it. The grumpier it makes you feel, the better.

3. I take that back. Do consult your boss about it. If he looks doubtful, persuade him that he doesn’t have to do the arguing, you will do it. It’ll make him look serene, if somewhat vacant.

4. Pick on a target. Ensure that they are people who are unlikely to be able to fight back. The best targets are those whom most of us would never have noticed until you point them out. This is what makes you a pioneer.

5. Fire the first salvo and make sure the media hears it. Don’t write it down, just shout it out. If they look blank, it’s only because they don’t understand what you’re saying. If anyone says you don’t make sense, it’s only because their brains are in the wrong place.

6. Watch the ensuing hoo-hah. With glee.

7. If anyone says you don’t know the law, ignore it. You are not concerned with the laws of mere earthlings. Even though occasionally, you do aspire to be an earthling lawmaker.

8. Get your mates to shout out variations of the same thing you just said. This will make it sound as if a lot of people agree on the same thing. They don’t have to sound nice and polite. That’s for wimps.

9. While you’re at it, take a swipe at any other group that has the temerity to look askance at what you say. Women, for example. Women really should just shut up and put out. Whatever did we give them the vote for?

10. Meanwhile, assure the boss that everything’s being taken care of. The media and everyone’s talking about it every day. You could never get this many column inches by doing the same old, same old, make nice stuff.

11. If anyone has the cheek to say you’re talking nonsense and are not worth commenting on, try to act as if you don’t care. But make sure the media knows what you think about it when you don’t care.

12. If the public thinks other people make more sense than you, tell them they are confused. Confused is what everyone else is. You, on the other hand, are crystal clear. They are wrong.

13. Make sure none of the voices that sound different from you get heard. Who needs such cacophony anyway? Yours is the only harmonious one there is. So, make sure that the papers and TV only air your views. They need to sell anyway, the poor things.

14. Never enter into a debate except through statements in the media. And try not to get on the liberal colonial language media, even the one owned by Arabs. That was a muff-up, sending that young fellow who doesn’t speak very well to that TV station. Who knew that they would send some slick, smooth-talking chap up against him?

15. Grand media gestures, especially if they’re TV-friendly, are the way to go. Those bum-shaking dudes a few years ago were really inspiring.

16. If anyone outside the country dares to complain about what you’re saying, tell them to butt out. This is Malaysia. We are different. Never mind if we still want to have the same mobile phones, TVs, handbags and cars as anyone else in the world. Get it right, we are different.

17. That doesn’t mean that anyone within the country is allowed to be different though. No way. How can we have harmony if everyone is different? No, we must all be on, how do you say it, the same sheet! In fact, if we can all look the same, even better. But we’ll start with thinking the same first.

18. If our foreign brethren start saying that we haven’t got it right, ignore them. They may be able to read our holy texts like they’re reading the newspaper but that doesn’t mean they know anything. Why don’t they just stick to getting oil out of the ground and leave us alone?

19. And those foreign brethren who are laughing at us, obviously they’re colonial stooges and have breathed the air in the West for so long, it’s gone to their heads. It’s Malaysian haze they should all be breathing! Why do you think our brains work this way?

20. History? Who cares about history? We are making history by being the first country to create problems where none exist. Who else can claim that?

Happy arguing!

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s marina mahathir